Northeast Tarrant

Lady Dragons senior moves up on the field, into leadership role

After playing in the shadow of standouts for four years, Alli Gardner has emerged as a team leader this season.
After playing in the shadow of standouts for four years, Alli Gardner has emerged as a team leader this season.

When it comes to the Southlake Carroll girls soccer team scoring goals, it’s not how they score. It’s how good they look scoring them. That’s kind of the way this season has been.

When a team is in the postseason, the concern is not really about how goals look, just that it keeps playing. That’s what the mindset should be for a single-elimination postseason format.

Lady Dragons senior midfielder Alli Garder had the right play at the end against McKinney Boyd in last week’s Class 6A Region I bi-district playoff. She also had a little good fortune.

Seconds before going into sudden death penalty kicks, Carroll had a chance when it moved into the Boyd box. Gardner crossed over to the left side and was about 12 yards out when she put the shot on net. The Boyd defender tried to clear the ball and somehow knocked it into the back of the net. The Lady Dragons escaped, 2-1, and avoided their season’s end.

“There were some frustrating moments for sure,” said Gardner, who will be playing in college at Arkansas. “We were prepared to go into penalty kicks and were confident, because we practice them every day. We also had two goals called back because we were offsides. But we found a way.”

A four-year starter for this program, Gardner waited her turn to be the leader. This team is looking to return to the state tournament in Georgetown for the first time since 2013. Gardner played behind two bona fide leaders in Grace Cory and Sophie Groff.

“She was always able to sit behind the scenes and just go out and perform,” Carroll head coach Matt Colvin said. “Alli didn’t have to grasp that part because she could lean on those two. But there comes a point in the junior and senior years where there is no one to lean on and other players are leaning on them.

“We make leadership very simple in our program. You can lead in either a positive or negative way.”

While not a vocal personality, Colvin pointed out that the little things have made Gardner’s value to the program extremely important. It comes back to being the first one to practice. It’s about bringing water to everybody. It’s about picking up equipment when practice ends. When one of your best players is doing things like that, it creates the attitude that no one can have excuses.

Gardner even changed positions this year, because Colvin believed it would give the offense more firepower. Traditionally a back midfielder who was usually tied to the defense, Colvin moved Gardner to an attacking spot on the middle line.

Obviously, that meant something as she scored twice in the playoff. Gardner is fourth in scoring with eight goals and tied for fourth in assists with 11. It’s not an unfamiliar move for Gardner. She also played this position as a freshman.

Selflessness has its rewards.

“This is the goofiest team I’ve ever been on,” Gardner said. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously. But we get the job done. One of our mottoes is, “More than me.” It’s the team over me. We no longer have the right to play for just individual things. We want to keep playing this year.”